You don’t know how deep you are ’til you get pulled back up.”John Craigie, I Am California
Hope is a strange thing. Hopelessness even more so. They depend so much on our experience of the present, and our expectations about the future. These feelings are so often drawn from what we think we can do, because that allows us to fantasize about what we could do. A future where we can’t do anything is a bleak one, indeed.
For a long time, longer than I can accurately recall, I have felt devoid of hope. When I try to imagine my future I feel suffocated. I see a million cracks spread out in front of me and I can’t make sense of the whole for all the pieces. There are too many of them — too many things that have to get done, too many things to consider, too many requirements and expectations. When I feel so incredibly inept, useless, not-resourced, not present, and drained, how I can expect myself to live up to any of those things? When just existing feels so exhausting, so painful, how can I imagine doing anything else? Any vision of the future collapses under the weight of all those expectations and my belief that I will never meet them. When you have no future it’s hard to have hope, and it’s kind of hard to care about the present in any meaningful way.
I stagnated. I allowed myself to believe that I couldn’t do anything, so I shouldn’t even try. I would only meet with failure and disappointment, so better to just shut down and avoid the inevitable realization that, despite myself and my desires, I could not.
This belief became a part of me — a much bigger part than perhaps I even knew myself. So much so that even the thought of doing something simple, like trying to go for a walk outside, or scheduling a doctor’s appointment, became an insurmountable task. I struggled under the weight of my own beliefs about myself and my perceived ineptitude, all the more pervasive for not being entirely unearned. I felt this way because my resources were depleted. How could I fault myself for that? Yet, perhaps not unsurprisingly, I did.
What was lacking in all of that was forgiveness. To forgive myself for feeling the way I felt. To allow myself moments of weakness. Most of all, to just let it hurt. To accept the profound sense of loss and aimlessness and emptiness that sat on top of my heart like a real, tangible, weight. To embrace the truth that I have no fucking clue what I am doing, but meeting that truth with a smile instead of a scowl. To open instead of closing. To forgive myself for feeling, for being a human-fucking-being.
I have felt something within me shaking loose during these last few weeks. In the midst of a storm of anxiety and fear, I have felt an enclave of resistance push its boundaries out just a little bit farther. I have felt a voice bubbling up out of the safe room I forgot was in there that says, “I see you, and you matter, and you can.” This voice belongs to me, but also to all of the people who love me, who have been trying to remind me of what I already knew. I have been able to feel that place within myself — the heartspace, the wild forest within which resides my most genuine, loving, kind, passionate, furious, wild, vulnerable, gentle, and compassionate self.
For the vast majority of my life I have let myself believe that strength was better than weakness. I believed that appearing to have it all together, that being stoic and unaffected, was the best way to be. There were many experiences in my life that taught me that lesson, and it’s one I have to constantly remember to forget.
Now, an even more important lesson begins to materialize out of the ether. One that says, “Fuck that shit.”
This is not the end nor the beginning of anything. Nothing is solved or fixed or finished. I don’t think it ever will be. But something is happening — something is moving — and that feels like a step on the path to a future. It feels almost like, dare I say it…